Date of Award

Summer 6-26-2014

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Robert T. Craig

Second Advisor

Timothy R. Kuhn

Third Advisor

Sheila McNamee


Peacebuilding is very difficult to perform. It places extreme and unusual demands upon its workers who must respond swiftly and sensitively while witnessing profound human suffering and violence. While many respond with dignity and grace in the face of unspeakable evil, they often do so enduring grave disruptions to their well-being for the sake of those they serve. Such disruptions-- commonly called Trauma, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or Secondary Traumatization-- may inhibit highly trained, highly experienced, and highly dedicated workers from functioning optimally. This study proposes that peacebuilders' communicative constructions of trauma and trauma-related entailments form a continuum of responses, which constitute and are constituted by three primary discourses of trauma--trauma as disease, trauma as test, and trauma as puzzle. This research shows how these discourses operate, and proposes how peacebuilders can engage more liberating, useful, satisfying, and generative "best" practices. By becoming aware of these discursive logics and learning to communicatively construct alternate realities from which to practice, practitioners become agents of change regardless of the discourses they choose to enact. This research extends communication scholars' understanding of language use as a method of change and transformation, when language includes talk and action.